Since dance programs first began at Woman’s College in 1957, they have lived in the Rosenthal wing of the Coleman Building, once called Rosenthal Gymnasium. Before this past year, UNC Greensboro’s School of Dance classes, rehearsals and performances took place in two renovated gym spaces, including the black box theater and a small ballet studio on the Athletics side.
With a 140 dance majors across two undergraduate and two graduate programs, it was tight squeeze for “grande allégro” – leaps across the floor.
But right next to the Dance Theater lay the competition-size Rosenthal Pool, built in 1925 – when indoor pools were unusual and the Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness was 90 years in the future.
In its early years, Rosenthal Pool was home to a swimming education league, the Dolphin-Seal Club, and even the stage for water-based theatrical performances.
With six lanes for lap swimming and a shallow end, the pool was a center for exercise and recreation for nearly 80 years, and even a site where beginning kayakers learned to roll in preparation for outings with Campus Recreation.
In 2013, School of Dance Director Janet Lilly began working with Vines Architecture and UNCG Facilities Design & Construction, led by Associate Vice Chancellor Jorge Quintal, to identify where dance spaces could expand. With the Kaplan Center’s 2016 opening on the horizon, Quintal proposed transforming Rosenthal Pool into two large studios but keeping the essential external structure. The dance faculty were onboard, and the architects were excited, said Lilly.
Now, that vision is a reality, and not only eye-catching but extremely beneficial for the dance programs, which include classes in contemporary, ballet and jazz technique, repertory, composition and improvisation.
Within the pool’s original structure are two sprung wood-floored dance studios ‒ one 4,500-square-foot and one 3,700 square feet ‒ in spaces that previously held 5 to 12 feet of water.
The ceilings are still two stories high, with multiple large windows that provide abundant natural lighting. The risers from the original pool are also still intact and now function as a viewing area.
Contemporary, jazz and ballet courses for dance majors take place in 202A, the Marley-floored studio that used to be the deep end of the pool, and Introduction to Dance courses occupy the larger wood-surface 201 studio.
“The addition of the new studios has been amazing,” says graduate student Isabelle Collazo. “I remember first walking in and being floored ‒ no pun intended ‒ by the vastness and openness of the space. I took Contemporary and Choreography and taught Intro to Dance in what we fondly refer to as ‘201 Wood,’ and I currently hold my MFA thesis rehearsals in ‘201 Marley.’ They are both incredible spaces that have made my graduate experience completely inspirational.”
Lilly calls it “a glorious space to dance in.”
“It really changes the experience for the students,” she said. “Dance is collaborative, and this is what being part of the School of Dance is about – sharing, learning, sharing community and sharing space.”
Fall Dances will take place Nov. 16 and 17 at the Dance Theater, and those who attend can look through the large windows to view the newly renovated studio space. For tickets and for more information about UNCG’s School of Dance, visit the website.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, and courtesy of UNCG University Archives